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Court Upholds EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Regulations

A federal appeals court has upheld the EPA’s limits on greenhouse gas emissions from car tailpipes, factories and power plants.

Massey Energy Co., the US Chamber of Commerce, Texas and Virginia were among the companies, business groups and states that filed more than 60 lawsuits against the EPA’s findings and regulations, BusinessWeek.com reports.

In its ruling yesterday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington said that the EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act was “unambiguously correct,” and that its finding that these emissions posed a public health risk is “neither arbitrary nor capricious.”

The National Mining Association, which represents coal-mining companies, told the Wall Street Journal that that is was “disappointed” with the decision, and that the ruling would be costly for the industry.

The ruling comes as the EPA is finalizing national limits on carbon dioxide from new fossil-fuel-fired power plants.

The fight goes back to 2007, when the Supreme Court ruled that EPA had a “statutory obligation” to regulate harmful greenhouse gasses under the Clean Air Act.

This decision spurred a series of greenhouse gas-related rules and regulations. EPA issued an “endangerment finding” for GHGs, defining carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydroflourocarbons, perflourocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride as air pollutants that mix together in the atmosphere and cause global climate change, which the agency said endangers public health and welfare.

The EPA then implemented the so-called tailpipe rule, which set GHG emission standards for cars and light trucks, with fuel economy standards issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration beginning with model year 2012. The tailpipe rule automatically triggered regulation of stationary GHG emitters under the Clean Air Act, requiring state-issued permits for iron and steel mill plants, among others, if they have the potential to emit more than 100 tons per year of “any air pollutant.”

These regulations went into effect Jan. 2, 2011.

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